All Massachusetts healthcare workers, even federal regulators, will be required to receive COVID-19 and flu vaccinations under proposed new state rules Waive similar COVID-19 vaccination requirements. but new suggestion With so many exemptions available, including for medical, religious and personal reasons, some medical leaders refuse to do so.
In a recent letter to state health departments, the Massachusetts Association of Health and Hospitals wrote that such freedom is fraught with uncertainty about how the rule will be implemented and enforced, as well as “unnecessary and costly litigation.” warned that it could lead to
Already, some of the state’s largest hospital systems (Massachusetts General Brigham Hospital and Beth Israel-Lahey Hospital) are facing lawsuits from workers who were laid off for refusing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine early in the pandemic. are dodging Workers claim their requests for religious or medical exemptions were denied without a reasonable process for discussion or appeal. The hospital denies these claims.
The hospital association said the new proposed rule that workers could refuse vaccination “for any reason” would have stricter requirements Higher flu vaccination rates in hospitals (98% of employees in some cases), he said.
“This could significantly reduce vaccination coverage among healthcare workers and increase the risk of infection among patients and staff,” the association’s letter said.
The state suggested amending the proposal to give hospitals clear discretion over waivers.
But state health commissioner Dr. Robbie Goldstein said in an interview with The Globe that it was “very welcome” for hospital systems to go beyond state standards, and that many medical facilities already had flu vaccinations. Said it’s done.
“Many of the largest healthcare systems require or mandate flu vaccination and do not accept any refusal. [current] If there are regulations, refusal to vaccinate will be allowed,” he said.
Current state regulations do not require most health care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but those who work in hospices and nursing homes are required to be vaccinated. Medical and religious exemptions are granted to these workers.
In the meantime, hospitals have enacted their own COVID-19 rules, but their rules are vastly different. Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center, the largest medical system in Central Massachusetts, does not require a COVID-19 vaccination. In a statement, spokeswoman Deborah Spano said: He said the health care system follows new federal rules that do not require vaccinations, but the University of Massachusetts “strongly encourages caregivers to get vaccinated.”
Gen. Brigham of Massachusetts requires staff to have a first dose of the novel coronavirus vaccine, while the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute requires a first shot and at least one booster shot. Tufts Medical Center requires its staff to have a “full vaccination”, which it defines as a primary series plus a booster.
But some hospitals said they were waiting for new state rules to determine how their own rules would change.
From hospitals and nursing homes to doctor’s offices, the healthcare industry continues to suffer severe staffing shortages due to the pandemic, with many workers burning out or retiring.some hospital systems I reported laying off hundreds of workersIn late 2021 and early 2022, for refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Massachusetts Nursing Association believes the proposed rule will be the way back for many of its members who were laid off for not getting vaccinated. The association, which is pending arbitration at hospitals challenging the dismissals, said it supports vaccination but only if it “provides a fair process” for employers to grant religious or medical exemptions. .
“We believe these new regulations offer a more balanced approach and we hope that they will lead to amnesties and rehiring of those who were laid off for not being vaccinated,” the ministry said in a statement. Stated.
The state’s nursing home industry, which has been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus and labor shortages, said it welcomed the proposed rule. The report said 20% of care workers were still vacant in nursing homes, and more than a third of facilities were forced to limit or deny new admissions, prompting 6,100 workers to immediately seek to stabilize the industry. He said there was a “critical need” to hire
“Nursing homes have had to compete with other health care settings where regulations do not require staff to have up-to-date vaccinations,” the association said in a letter to state regulators. Ta. “Proposed regulatory amendments for both long-term care facilities and other health care settings would go a long way toward ‘leveling the playing field’ by allowing facilities to recruit new staff to the long-term care sector.”
“It’s good that state regulators still encourage vaccination. [proposed] The policy leaves some pretty big loopholes that truck drivers can drive through,” said David Grabowski, a professor of health policy at Harvard Medical School.
He said allowing such broad discretion in exemptions could reduce vaccination coverage.
“Deaths are down significantly, and things look a lot better when you factor in vaccinations and treatments like Paxlobid, but all of this could go wrong,” he said. said.
The latest state data on flu vaccinations for health care workers shows what can happen when leaders grant drastic exemptions. At hospitals in the state, where flu vaccinations are mandatory with limited exceptions, 91% of staff got vaccinated this winter. But in nursing homes where enforcement was less stringent, only 62% of staff were vaccinated. At dialysis centers, the figure was even lower, with only 53% receiving the vaccine.
The state’s Public Health Council, an appointment committee made up of doctors, academics and consumer advocacy groups to help make decisions for the Department of Health, is scheduled to vote on the proposed rule on Sept. 13. State Health Commissioner Goldstein said regulators are considering the concerns. They will take it and consider it before finalizing the rules in late September.
“People are most protected when they are kept up to date with vaccines,” Goldstein said.
“This process that we are going through has raised the bar in many ways, and it has given health care facilities the ability to work in highly vulnerable situations and to employees working with highly vulnerable people. , we are asking for the highest level of protection.” It is possible,” he said. “And the vaccine is up to date.”